Family moves barns to build winery in Hartford

HARTFORD – It was only after Randy Wyand had agreed to move an 1800s-era barn from Harrisburg, Pa., to Hartford that he found a similar barn just down the road in Fowler.

So he decided to buy them both.

Now being merged into one 5,500-square-foot historic barn, the creation soon should house Hartford Hill Winery, expected to be open before the snow flies.

Appropriately named, visitors to the winery will be able to enjoy not only the wine, but also the view from atop the high hill on the east side of Bushnell Campbell Road.

Larger than originally envisioned, Wyand and his wife, Carolyn, of Howland, say they simply broadened their plans. Now they’ll have a large room with open floor space for entertainment along with a cozy area for more intimate conversation in front of a giant fireplace carved from the stone of a barn foundation.

Wyand declined to release the exact investment, but chuckled when he said some have described it as his “million-dollar barn.”

The family has owned the undeveloped property for more than two decades, using it primarily for outdoor enjoyment like camping, fishing and even playing hockey on the frozen pond with their children.

“The property has a lot of meaning to us,” Carolyn Wyand said.

Other than their enjoyment of wine and wineries, the Wyands say they have no knowledge or experience in the wine business. Rather, his mother-in-law described Randy as an entrepreneur who knows how to dream big.

Running a business, though, is not new to Wyand. For years he has operated car washes, coffee shops and even a men’s clothing store.

The winemaking, they say, will be left to Trumbull County native Olivia Blank, whom they have brought on as their winemaker.

Blank said she studied viticulture and enology at Tairawhiti Polytechnic in New Zealand and then interned at Bedell Cellars in New York.

On a hot summer day last week, the Wyands gathered with Blank and Carolyn’s mother, Marilyn Malito, to explore the tastes of different wines. Holding plastic cups, they sat around a patio table set up inside the barn as Amish construction workers clambered around the aged heavy wooden beams, hammering and sawing. The beams still bore tiny tags that had been stapled to the corners when they were dismantled to indicate their proper location during reconstruction.

“We started in the spring time,” Randy Wyand said. “I think we will have the barn done by the end of September. We would love to be open by the end of fall.”

That will depend largely on attaining the required inspections and alcohol permits, he said.

But even that will be long before grapes are growing on the vines. Nevertheless, winemaking will begin in earnest using juices they expect to purchase from other areas of the state and country. Blank estimates locally grown grapes could be ready for harvest within three to five years.

The idea of shipping in juice is not novel, Blank noted.

“There are limited wineries that use their own grapes,” Blank said. “They may grow some just for the aesthetic value. It makes it look more like a winery.”

And while they know Ohioans tend to prefer sweeter wines, the Wyands and Blank said they will offer sweet and dry wine of both the red and white variety.

“We want to build a great venue where people can come and relax and enjoy nature,” Randy Wyand said. “And hopefully produce some quality wines.”

blinert@tribtoday.com